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Glass Castle Discussion Questions

From: Alice Osborn, W.
Sent on: Thursday, November 20, 2008 8:41 AM
Hi Everyone,

Here are a few discussion questions about our book to get the ball rolling tomorrow -- feel free to bring your own questions, too - I feel we'll have a lot to discuss. Also check out Jeannette Walls's interviews on YouTube or type in her name in Google and select "video" to see her speak -- she's very warm and engaging! *** Alice


The Glass Castle Questions


1. Jeannette Walls believes that her parents gave their kids a lot of self-esteem in spite of all of their shortcomings as parents. For example, her parents didn?t believe in getting welfare and they trusted the kids to take care of themselves. What do you think about this?



1a. Walls also feels that she faced her demon by writing this book and letting people in high society know where she came from. What does this shame she felt say about class in America?



1b. What do you like most about Walls's writing style? We read another creative nonfiction book, "Into the Wild," earlier this year -- how did Krakauer's style differ from hers?



2. Though The Glass Castle is brimming with unforgettable stories, which scenes were the most memorable for you? Which were the most shocking, the most inspiring, the funniest?

3. Discuss the metaphor of a glass castle and what it signifies to Jeannette and her father. Why is it important that, just before leaving for New York, Jeannette tells her father that she doesn't believe he'll ever build it? (p. 238).

4. The first story Walls tells of her childhood is that of her burning herself severely at age three, and her father dramatically takes her from the hospital: "You're safe now" (p. 14). Why do you think she opens with that story, and how does it set the stage for the rest of the memoir?

5. Rex Walls often asked his children, "Have I ever let you down?" Why was this question (and the required "No, Dad" response) so important for him -- and for his kids? On what occasions did he actually come through for them?

6. Jeannette's mother insists that, no matter what, "life with your father was never boring" (p. 288). What kind of man was Rex Walls? What were his strengths and weaknesses, his flaws and contradictions?

7. Discuss Rose Mary Walls. What did you think about her description of herself as an "excitement addict"? (p. 93).

8 Describe Jeannette's relationship to her siblings and discuss the role they played in one another's lives.

9. In college, Jeannette is singled out by a professor for not understanding the plight of homeless people; instead of defending herself, she keeps quiet. Why do you think she does this?

10. The two major pieces of the memoir -- one half set in the desert and one half in West Virginia -- feel distinct. What effect did such a big move have on the family -- and on your reading of the story? How would you describe the shift in the book's tone?

11. Were you surprised to learn that, as adults, Jeannette and her siblings remained close to their parents? Why do you think this is?

12. What character traits -- both good and bad -- do you think that Jeannette inherited from her parents? And how do you think those traits shaped Jeannette's life?

13. For many reviewers and readers, the most extraordinary thing about The Glass Castle is that, despite everything, Jeannette Walls refuses to condemn her parents. Were you able to be equally nonjudgmental?




Alice Osborn, M.A.
[masked]
[masked] Falls of Neuse #294
Raleigh, NC 27615
[address removed]
Website: http://www.aliceosborn.com
Blog: http://www.wildwomenswriting.blogspot.com/

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